Warning over risk of MMR outbreaks

By ALMOST one in four young children in north Essex could be at risk of contracting potentially fatal but avoidable diseases, doctors have warned. Health experts have predicted new epidemic outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella unless more children are immunized against the illnesses.

By Roddy Ashworth

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ALMOST one in four young children in north Essex could be at risk of contracting potentially fatal but avoidable diseases, doctors have warned.

Health experts have predicted new epidemic outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella unless more children are immunized against the illnesses.


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The number of children catching these diseases fell to an all-time low in Britain after the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988.

However fears about risks surrounding the vaccine - which have never been scientifically proven - deterred thousands of parents from having their children properly inoculated.

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Now, local health professionals are becoming increasingly worried over the number of children in the area without protection from the diseases.

In North Essex almost one in four children are not immunized, which means there is a big risk they could contract one of the diseases in later life.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed to give a child sufficient protection, but in the Colchester area only 75.1%, and in Tendring 77.7%, of children are inoculated.

The Department of Health says a target of 95% is needed to ensure no epidemic return of these diseases.

Experts at both Colchester and Tendring Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are now urging all parents to get their children immunized with MMR.

Infection control and immunisation specialist nurse Grant Crawshaw, who covers both PCTs, said: “Vaccination will protect children from these very serious diseases.

“The controversy around the MMR vaccine has caused untold damage to the vaccination programme, and left thousands of children in Colchester and Tendring unprotected against three serious diseases.

“I would urge all parents to have their children vaccinated, and those still concerned about MMR to research the evidence well or talk to a knowledgeable health practitioner.

“All three diseases are highly infectious. Why take the risk?”

Worries about a potential link between MMR and autism in youngsters surfaced in 1998 when a study by Dr Andrew Wakefield was published in The Lancet.

However, no research has ever established a link and exhaustive analysis of data has failed to prove a connection.

Most experts are now convinced the vaccine is safe and fear that the reluctance of some parents to inoculate their children with the vaccine is unfounded.

Meanwhile the MMR vaccine is used in over 90 countries, including the whole of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Over 500 million doses have already been given worldwide.

In the USA, the MMR vaccine has been given to children for nearly 30 years and long-term research conducted in Finland has reported no deaths or permanent damage has ever been linked to it.

The World Health Organisation describes the MMR vaccine as a “highly effective vaccine which has an outstanding safety record”.

For free advice and support, parents are being encouraged to contact their health visitor or GP or visit www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk or www.immunisation.nhs.uk

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